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Salvia, broken down and described


Onset : 30-180 seconds
Duration : 5-30 minutes
Normal After Effects : 30-60 minutes

 : 10-20 minutes
Duration : 30-90 minutes
Normal After Effects : 30-120 minutes

Salvinorin A is technically classed as an a-typical dissocitaive. It is unique in the fact that it is the most potent natural hallucinogen and it is not an alkaloid but a terpenoid. The molecule is structurally distinct from other naturally occurring hallucinogens (such as DMT, psilocybin, and mescaline) because it contains no nitrogen atoms.  

The only natural source of salvinorin A is Salvia divinorum, a Mexican plant which has a long history of use as an entheogen by indigenous Mazatec shamans but was first described and named by Alfredo Ortega and colleagues in 1982.

The reason it is so unique in terms of its subjective effects is because it has no action at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor, which is the principal molecular target responsible for the actions of the classical psychedelics such as LSD, mushrooms and mescaline. Salvia is instead a kappa opioid receptor agonist with a method of action tied into interrupting Kappa-opioid tactile sensory pathways; these pathways mediate pain, gravity awareness, and feedback for determining physical orientation in space. This explains a few of the subjective experiences found on salvia which based on the predefined potential subjective effects index found here, I will now begin to breakdown and describe…

Physical effects:

The physical effects of Salvinorin A can be broken down into nine components all of which progressively intensify proportional to dosage. These are described below and generally include:

  • Changes in gravity - the most prominent physical sensation of a Salvinorin A trip is known by many people as “Salvia Gravity”. This is at least partially present during the mildest of trips and increases proportionally with dosage until it is all encompassing. It begins with a heavy sensation that pulls and tugs at the body. As this increases, it inevitably becomes so powerful that it swiftly lifts the tripper up and out of their body at extremely high speeds and over vast distances in a direction that often doesn’t quite make sense. This feels as if you are being pushed or pulled into a space vastly different from anything found on the classic hallucinogens.
  • Changes in felt bodily form - this effect often accompanies the onset of powerful Salvinorin A gravity and can be described as non painful sensations of being stretched horizontally or vertically into infinity, splitting into two halves and a variety of other sudden changes.
  • Spontaneous tactile sensations - for some unlucky people this is sometimes accompanied by the sensation of intense, sharp and cold pins and needles all over a persons skin, which can quickly become very uncomfortable. Most people however will never experience this feeling.


Cognitive effects:

The cognitive effects of Salvinorin A can be broken down into eight components all of which progressively intensify proportional to dosage. The general head space of salvia is described by many as one of extreme cognitive suppression and strong feelings of confusion.
The most prominent of these cognitive effects generally include:

  • Extreme laughter - the average first time salvia user generally experiences a mixture of extreme gigglyness and confusion.
  • Ego suppression, loss and death - this substance is particularly intense in its cognitive effects due to the near instant transition from sobriety into ego death which can occur very suddenly at moderate to high dosages. Throughout the experience, this feels as if you are receiving the sensory input of your trip, but are not fully conscious enough to process the implications of it until the offset.
  • Thought deceleration
  • Suppression of information processing
  • Suppression of language
  • Anxiety - general paranoia, anxiety and panic are very common for the unprepared and this can be accounted for by the fact that k-opoid antaganists have been shown to cause such feelings in people.
  • States of unity and interconnectedness
  • Amnesia

It’s these effects which create for an experience devoid of personal introspection. This substance is best described as a drug that does not create profound personal insights, just profound and interesting experiences.

Visual effects:


When a user of this substance keeps their eyes open throughout the duration of a moderate - strong trip, a number of open eye distortions and alterations are usually present. These are significantly more simplistic from that of open eye distortions found with other classes of hallucinogen. They seem to play heavily on different sections of your vision and generally include,

  • Depth perception distortions - this effect is usually characterized by a total loss of depth perception and a complete flattening of the visual field into a 2-dimensional image. It can also make objects seem further away or closer in distance than they actually are.
  • Size distortions - this effect can be described as specific objects with the external environment or the surroundings as a whole changing in physical size and becoming impossibly huge or small in size.


At moderate to high dosages with darkness or closed eyes, once the user has become disconnected from their body, a full array of level 1 - 4 hallucinatory structures becomes present. This is an effect which is most commonly found within dissociatives such as ketamine and DXM. They are distinctively different in style however and significantly more likely to be based on mathematical constructs such as vast and elaborate fractals.

In terms of stylistic appearance they also tend to contain significantly more detail to their style, with a greater variety of materials and abstract detail which comprise the structures.

Another key difference between the manifestation of this effect within salvia and those found within dissociatives is the extremely prominent sense that you are the structures that you are visually perceiving. This can be described as the sensation that you have become the structure itself and can physically feel every detail and moving part across itself. In comparison this effect is only present at level 4 within the classical dissociatives but is often present across all levels within salvia.

These constructs and structures are often so huge that they appear to expand across hundreds to thousands of miles and gradually change by means of panning, zooming and rotating slowly into view as more and more detail is gradually revealed. As dosage increases, so does the level of detail and intricacy of these structures. This continues until level 4 when the sensation of seeing the entire universe condensed into an infinitely vast and intricate self transforming machine form becomes present.


At high dosages with darkness or closed eyes, once the user has become disconnected from their body, a component which is currently only known to occur with salvinorin A manifests itself. This effect can be described as the experience of vast and complex landscapes comprised of ever changing and interlocking mechanical parts which move between each other in a variety of way.

These machinescapes are comprised from an infinite variety of potential materials and parts which often comprise impossible arrays of cogs, gears, pulleys, conveyor belts, levers, panels, hydraulics and incomprehensible moving parts.

During this experience the extremely prominent sense that you have become the perceivable machinescape is present. This can be described as the sensation that you can physically feel every detail and moving part across itself.

Hallucinatory states

Salvia produces a full range of high level hallucinatory states in a fashion that is just as consistent of that of any of the classical psychedelics. These effects include:

  • External hallucinations - in comparison to psychedelics, the transformations found within salvinorin A are significantly more solid, believable and realistic in appearance. They are commonly manifested as objects within the external environment coming alive or changing in some way and can only occur when the eyes are kept open.
  • Internal hallucinations - The imagery on salvia is described as more solid than psychedelics and does not seem to be composed of condensed visual geometry as with imagery found within psychedelics. It is often embedded within and across structures which often become solid fractal representations of the original image. At higher dosages this particular effect commonly contains a full array of hallucinations with plots, settings, autonomous entity contact and scenarios. They can be described as internal in their manifestation but occasionally external with open eyes. They are both lucid and delirious in their believability, fixed in style and often ominous or sinister in style. A unique aspect to the hallucinatory scenarios found within salvia are how commonly they are manifested with a 2nd person perspective in comparison to other classes of hallucinogens. This is commonly described as suddenly becoming a random object with common examples often include a conveyor belt, a wall, a book or a specific part of a building.

Auditory effects:

The auditory effects of Salvinorin A are common in their occurrence and exhibit a small range of effects which commonly includes:

  • Distortions
  • Hallucinations


At the present moment the scientific literature is currently classing Salvinorin A as a hallucinogen which fits the criteria as either a dissociative or an A-typical dissociative.

I personally feel that although salvia shares states of hallucinatory structures and out of body experiences with dissociatives. This is not enough to argue that it falls under the same classification, for example the hallucinatory structures, although similar are vastly different in their style and complexity. Along side of this, out of body experiences with dissociatives are triggered by the way in which NMDA receptor antagonists block signals to the conscious mind from other parts of the brain and quite literally disconnect the user from its body. This is accompanied by a distinctive feeling of dissociation, disconnection and detachment which is simply not present on salvia as it works on an entirely different set of receptors.

The effects of salvia have a completely unique subjective style and pharmacology that is not found within any other category of hallucinogen and is thus an entirely new class of its own.

Health effects, potential addiction and tolerance:

Salvia is non-toxic: although it’s not known what the overdose (LD50) of Salvinorin A is, it is known that there has never been a death attributable to Salvia or Salvinorin A, this is especially reassuring because most doses do not exceed 25 milligrams, though doses of 2 grams of salvinorin A have been recorded.

The biggest danger with Salvia is paranoia and bad trips which have on rare occasion been known to cause people to accidentally harm or even kill themselves. This can be combated in just the same way that the paranoia induced with any hallucinogen can. Simply take Salvia in a safe, comfortable environment away from noise and groups of people, brush off all negative thoughts as irrational paranoia before they can even begin to develop themselves. If you are not experienced with the substance, be sure to have a close and trustworthy friend to reassure, calm and prevent you from getting into danger.

Salvia exhibits a reverse-tolerance effect - The effects of the substance become stronger with each use. It may take several uses before a user “breaks-though” into the full effects of the substance.

Legal issues:

At present Salvia divinorum remains legal in most countries. Countries where salvia is controlled in some manner include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Japan, the United States, Russia, Spain, and Sweden.

The prohibitive degree of Salvia divinorum legislation varies widely from country to country. Australia has imposed its strictest ‘schedule 9’ (US Schedule I equivalent), and Italy has also placed salvia in its ‘Table I’ of controlled substances (also US Schedule I equivalent). In Spain, there are controls focusing only on the commercial trade of Salvia divinorum, personal cultivation (i.e. for non-commercial use) is not targeted.

Salvia legislation may prove difficult to enforce. The plant has a nondescript appearance; unlike many other drug plants, the leaves are non-descript, and without a detectable odour. Salvia divinorum can be grown as an ordinary houseplant without the need of special equipment such as hydroponics or high-power lights.

If you want to try this substance for yourself it is freely available through Google and local headshops with a search for the term “salvia leaves” or “salvia extract” coming up with many legitimate vendors on the front page.

Reader submitted trip reports:


In my opinion Salvia is perhaps one of the most confusing experiences a human being can possibly go through. Making it by far the most difficult of all substances which I have attempted to explain. 

Salvia may well be a difficult drug that is not for the faint hearted, but it is an extremely fascinating and very worthwhile experience that is worthy of exploration. 

Click here for a more comprehensive breakdown.

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